Sports Hockey

NHL Playoffs

Rangers eliminate Flyers in Game 7, get set to face Penguins 0

By Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun

The New York Rangers celebrate defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Madison Square Garden in New York, April 30, 2014. (ADAM HUNGER/USA Today)

The New York Rangers celebrate defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Madison Square Garden in New York, April 30, 2014. (ADAM HUNGER/USA Today)

NEW YORK - 

The King made sure this Broadway Blueshirts show was extended for another round.

Although he didn’t need to be spectacular, Henrik Lundqvist made 26 saves and was a steadying force as the New York Rangers ousted the Philadelphia Flyers with a 2-1 victory in Game 7 before 18,006 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

One night after being pulled after giving up four goals on 23 shots in just 40 minutes during the 5-2 loss that kept the Flyers season alive, Lundqvist bolstered his reputation as a big-game goalie — improving to 4-1 in Game 7s with a 1.00 goals against average and impressive .963 save percentage.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling right now, so intense to play a Game 7,” said Lundqvist. “Coming home (Tuesday) night, I was so disappointed. I was mad because we couldn’t come up with a better performance.

“But to play a Game 7 at home and to win, that was the inspiration. We played a really strong series. I think we were the better team. We definitely earned this one.”

Lundqvist had a slow start to the season, especially by his own lofty standards, but turned things around in December after agreeing to terms on a seven-year contract extension that was worth $59.5 million and eliminated the uncertainty of his pending unrestricted free agency.

The Rangers entered this series with a decisive edge between the pipes and, while Steve Mason turned heads with an impressive playoff and did everything in his power to keep the Flyers in Game 7, it was Lundqvist who stood tall and led his team on to a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Even after the Flyers got a goal from Jason Akeson at 4:32 of the third period to spoil the shutout bid and make things interesting, the Rangers spent a bit too much time sitting back on their heels.

But Lundqvist was there to make sure the one-goal cushion would stand up.

“You need Henrik to do some things when you have a lead and you’re scrambling around there, trying to protect it. You’ve got to figure that he’s going to have to make a save or two,” said Rangers centre Brad Richards, who had two goals and six points in the series. “You could tell that he was on and that’s what you need to close out a series.”

Offensively, the Rangers got goals from Dan Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot.

Carcillo, who returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous two games as a healthy scratch, buried a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Mats Zuccarello while Pouliot snapped home a shot after a deft feed from Derick Brassard.

And while first-line winger Rick Nash was held off the scoresheet and now has only one goal in 19 playoff games since he was acquired by the Rangers from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he had his most effective game of the series, finishing with five shots on goal, five hits and a pair of blocked shots in just under 18 minutes of ice time.

“I know a lot of times there’s a lot of emphasis being put on the scoresheet, but he made so many big plays and so many big defensive plays at the right time,” said Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault. “Those are just as important as a goal.”

The Flyers showed plenty of perseverance to get to Game 7, but the sting of defeat was still fresh after they were sent packing.

“I think we can definitely be proud of what this group accomplished, considering what kind of start we had to the regular season,” said Mason, who admitted after the game that it was a concussion that kept him out of Games 1 and 2. “It’s tough to put into words right now. It’s a long series and in one game, boom it’s over.”

A GOOD CALL

Alain Vigneault came up aces with his decision to reinsert Dan Carcillo into the New York Rangers lineup.

After opting for the more skilled J.T. Miller in Game 5 and 6 against, Vigneault put Carcillo back in and the feisty winger rewarded him with their first goal on Wednesday.

“That’s part of coaching, you’ve got to figure out what you feel is best for the group. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t,” said Vigneault. “I just felt that in a Game 7 like this, I’d rather go with experience.”

ken.wiebe@sunmedia.ca


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